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Hollywood blinded by the Bling - Diamonds are for Never

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The Academy Awards -- The Oscars - takes place on February 24th, less than two weeks after Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued its second report so far this year detailing evidence of suspected Israeli war crimes in Gaza during an eight day pre-election assault last November which killed 165 Palestinians, mainly civilians, including at least 25 children.  

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Many of the celebrities gracing the red carpet at The Oscars will probably be wearing diamonds processed in Israel; presumably unaware that they are every bit as bloody as the diamonds depicted in the 2007 Oscar-nominated film Blood Diamond.

Diamonds have never killed anyone but the revenue they generate provides funds that enable rogue elements to enforce their will on others by sheer force and brutality. No one familiar with the details of the cold-blooded slaying of Lubna Hanash - a young Palestinian lady - shot in the head and killed by an Israeli soldier on January 23rd this year could be in any doubt about the nature of the regime responsible for her death and for killing five other unarmed Palestinians in January.

The fact that revenue from the Israeli diamond industry generates about $1 billion annually in funding for this regime should mean that diamonds processed in Israel are regarded as blood diamonds and banned. However, the international diamond regulatory system - the Kimberley Process - which is supposed to prevent the trade in blood diamonds, stipulates that only diamonds which fund rebel groups can be banned. Blood diamonds that fund rogue governments are labelled conflict-free regardless of the human rights violations they fund.

This years Academy Awards ceremony is set up to be an even bigger diamond-themed-fest than normal with Dame Shirley Bassey of "Diamonds are forever" fame making a special appearance for the occasion of a 50th anniversary tribute to the James Bond series of films.   According to media reports, Rio Tinto - the mining giant - will also use the occasion to showcase and promote their Argyle diamonds mined in Australia. They are unlikely to mention the fact that some Argyle diamonds are polished in Israel where diamonds generate revenue used to fund an illegal occupation, home demolitions, construction of illegal settlement, the siege of Gaza and an apartheid regime described by many leading South Africans as worse than anything they experienced under the apartheid-era regime in South Africa.

Some of the world's leading jewelers; Harry Winston, De Beers, and Chopard, use The Oscars to promote a positive image of diamonds by building the association in the public conscience between diamonds and the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. But the bright lights and bling can't obscure the reality that diamonds processed in Israel are funding a regime that has no regard for the human rights of Palestinians or for the international human rights laws and humanitarian laws by which civilized societies have agreed to be bound.  

Harry Winston President and CEO, Robert Gannicott stated that they buy "quite a lot of polished diamonds" from Israel and that Israeli companies are "probably our biggest suppliers of polished diamonds".   Therefore, when someone buys Harry Winston diamonds that were processed in Israel some of their money ends up funding the Israeli military which is guilty of gross human rights violations. People need to know these facts in order to make an informed decision before they decide to buy diamonds.

De Beers also sell diamonds that are processed in Israel. As detailed previously, De Beers' Forevermark diamonds crafted by the Steinmetz Diamond Group fund a Unit of the Givati Brigade of the Israeli military. The Givati brigade was responsible for the massacre of the Samouni family in Gaza on January 2009.

Maestro Jewelers, a company set up by the Israel Diamond Company which has manufacturing facilities in Israel, supplies diamonds to the famous Swiss jewellery brand Chopard. When I wrote and asked if any of their diamonds are cut and polished in Israel, Chopard avoided answering the question and offered the usual bland assurances about their compliance with the discredited Kimberley Process and the standards of the Responsible Jewellery Council - neither of which consider diamonds that generate revenue used to fund war crimes in Palestine as blood diamonds and would claim they are conflict-free.  

At the beginning of February over 50 Palestinian organizations, representing a cross-section of Palestinian civil society, including women's groups and trade unions, and international organizations in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for equality, justice and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, issued an appeal to women and men of conscience and jewelers worldwide to reject diamonds processed in Israel. Over 90 civil society organizations have endorsed the statement calling for a boycott of Israeli blood diamonds.

In 2013 South Africa chairs the Kimberley Process which has refused to broaden the definition of a "conflict diamonds" to take account of diamonds that fund human rights violations by government forces. The African National Congress supports the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for a global campaign of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel similar to that which helped to bring an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa. This gives South Africa significant leverage to impose sanctions on Israel, either in the form of persuading the KP members to impose a ban on the export of Israeli diamonds and/or by refusing to allow the export of South African rough diamonds to Israel.

The details outlined in the latest HRW report and in its previous report in January concerning the deliberate targeting and killing of journalists in Gaza, together with previous reports of Israeli war crimes and possible crimes against humanity documented by the UN Human Rights Council should give women and men of conscience cause to reflect on the desirability and ethical integrity of wearing diamonds. As long as the jewellery industry continue to facilitate the trade in diamonds that fund rogue regimes consumers should opt for alternatives to these blood-soaked pieces of polished carbon.

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A human rights activists from Ireland with a particular interest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the global trade in diamonds which are a major source of funding for the Israeli military regime.
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